Toronto Blue Jays Stand Pat for Now as Boston Red Sox Fortify Fearsome Pitching Ranks at Winter Meetings
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell couldn’t say the same thing — with a straight face, anyway — when he held the same job with the Blue Jays.
But there was Farrell on Tuesday, on the podium of a ballroom at the Gaylord National Convention Center, almost gloating at the big news of the day from the baseball winter meetings.
The Red Sox were just hours removed from acquiring, via blockbuster trade with the Chicago White Sox, left-handed ace starter Chris Sale, further bolstering an already stellar starting rotation.
“One thing this is a reminder of is how aggressive our ownership is to give us a chance to win every year,” Farrell said.
While not necessarily a zinger, it might have felt that way to the Blue Jays and their fans, who saw the Red Sox go from defending champions of the American League East to prohibitive favourites to repeat.
With Sale joining former Jay David Price and AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, the Red Sox are certainly formidable, even with the retirement of David Ortiz.
“They’ve got some big arms and they’ve got a great offence and now they add arguably one of the top three-pitchers in the game,” Jays manager John Gibbons said on Tuesday. “It just makes them that much better.
“But really, that doesn’t shock me. It probably shouldn’t shock anybody, to be honest.”
It probably doesn’t shock many that the Jays, under Rogers Communication ownership, aren’t anywhere near as willing to open up the wallets as division rivals such as the Red Sox and Yankees.
With movement in the free-agent market mostly quiet on Tuesday, the Jays aren’t done with what they hoped would be a productive off-season. There is still a need for two outfielders — preferably with some power — some bullpen help and a backup catcher.
Jays general manager Ross Atkins said there are still plenty of possibilities as the meetings move on, but nothing has been done beyond Monday’s signing of versatile fielder Steve Pearce.
Atkins rejected the notion that the big Red Sox move on Tuesday heightened the urgency of making a move to keep pace with a team that finished four games in front of them last season.
“We feel like 23 players or more got us to (the playoffs), not two and three and four guys,” Atkins said. “Whatever the number of players that build a team, it’s more about the collective, building the best possible team year in and year out and what gives us the best chance to sustain that year in and year out.
“We couldn’t be trying any more to win. We’re not trying harder today to win because of Chris Sale.”
So what exactly are the Jays trying to do at this point? Well, they’d probably love to get their hands on free agent Dexter Fowler, a player Gibbons said would look great batting leadoff in a Jays uniform.
But Atkins said the team is kicking the tires on several players, acknowledging that he’s been in touch with representatives for both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista — the two free agents who, along with Josh Donaldson, formed the heavy-hitting heart of the team over the past couple seasons.
“We’ve stayed in touch,” Atkins said, when asked about Encarnacion specifically. “There’s probably not a free agent or potential trade that we haven’t had discussions (about) with agents or other teams.
“(There are) a lot of different moves that we could speed up by offering more money or more player in return. There’s lots of things we could do. There’s lots of opportunities to make our team better and we feel like we are in a good position to do that.”
Recognizing that he’ll likely have to proceed without Encarnacion and Bautista, Gibbons is anxious to get free agent Kendrys Morales in his batting order.
“I’ve got to believe he’s right there at the top in the 3-4-5 range depending on how it all stacks up when we get to spring training,” Gibbons said.
“He was acquired to produce runs. He’s always been able to do that. We all love the fact that he’s a switch hitter. He gives the other teams something to think about.”
When they’re not thinking about Chris Sale and the Red Sox, of course.